What an explosive start to the season by the World Champion. The most points ever scored in a Grand Prix weekend and the chance to rip up the record books for Pecco Bagnaia.
Not for the last nine years has the winner of the opening Grand Prix of the season gone on to win the MotoGP™ World Championship. It was back in 2014 that reigning World Champion Marc Marquez riding the Repsol Honda won the opening race of the 18 round World Championship in Qatar. Since then that opening Grand Prix winner has not gone on to grab the ultimate prize. In 74 years of Grand Prix racing the opening race Premier class winner has only gone on to win the World title on 35 separate occasions. Twelve of those belong to just two riders
For the last three years the rider commencing his World MotoGP Championship campaign has not even finished on the podium at the opening round. Both Joan Mir in 2020 and Bagnaia last year did not finish their first races while Fabio Quartararo was fifth in 2021.
It surely comes as no great surprise that two Italian legends who dominated their respective decades of Grand Prix racing lead the charts. Both of them also started successful World Championship campaigns by winning the opening race on different makes of machines. Giacomo Agostini did it six times on the MV Agusta and then brought Yamaha their first ever Premier class title in 1975. His modern day counterpart Valentino Rossi split his five opening day Championship campaigns between Honda and Yamaha.
Harold Daniell won that first ever Premier class Grand Prix at the 1949 TT races on the Isle of Man, but it was Les Graham who became the first ever World Champion. It was another seven years before the winner of the opening race became World Champion. John Surtees brought MV Agusta success at the TT and then the World title in 1956. The only man to win World titles on two and four wheels went on to do it three more times.
Mike Hailwood did it three times for the all-conquering MV team, not surprisingly at the TT but also twice at Daytona in America in 1964/65. Barry Sheene won the opening round twice to kick-start successful 500cc campaigns at his beloved San Carlos in Venezuela and Le Mans. Surprisingly multi–World Champions Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson only did it once while five times World Champion Mick Doohan only twice at home in Eastern Creek and Shah Alam in Malaysia. Fellow Australian Casey Stoner won the opening round in Qatar twice and then brought World titles to both Ducati and Honda in 2007/11. Jorge Lorenzo brought Yamaha success in Qatar in 2012 leading on to his second MotoGP™ title. Two years later the reigning World Champion Marquez won the opening round under Losail floodlights and went on to retain his title
Also, what a ride by Maverick Vinales on the factory Aprilia at Portimao. At one point I thought he was going join a very exclusive club. A rider who has won a premier class Grand Prix on three different makes of machines. Four times World Champion Eddie Lawson won Grands Prix for Yamaha, Honda and Cagiva. Mike Hailwood brought Grand Prix victories to Norton, MV Augusta and Honda but the other two in the club never won a premier class title. Randy Mamola brought Grands Prix success to Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda while Loris Capirossi’s nine 500cc/MotoGP™ wins came on Yamaha, Honda and Ducati machinery.
Records are up there to be matched or beaten. Both Pecco and Maverick have every chance and intention of doing just that after a breathtaking start to their campaigns. It would take a brave person to bet against them.